Willem Verbeeck

 Willem Verbeeck is a Belgium born, up and coming New York based photographer, who briefly spent some time at The New School at Parsons School of Design before focusing more on personal work and his commissions. He is part of the relatively new trend of photographers who document and show their works via social media in particular YouTube. Verbeeck’s channel has new become a social platform to document his photographic process, from the type of film he choices to instructional type videos on his selection process. 

Verbeeck creates a wide variety of portraits that work more commercial rather than being a body of work itself; however, his portraits are were the choice of film rather than digital imaging really shows he grate use of light and shade. This natural lighting seems to be used widely in his portrait work, even seeming to dictate the composition of the image; this can be seen in the following photographs (See first two images).

Looking at Verbeeck’s other work I’m really drawn to his portrait work, both his work in the studio work and his street portrait photography, I really like how the analogue process captures light in such a different way to digital photography. These two images in particular make a great use of natural light on the models face; the image of the women was taken outside whereas the one of the man was taken in a studio environment with a large window to the left of the model. I really like the compositions and framing of these images, the closer framing of the image of the women makes the portrait more intimate. The contrasting colours of the sky and her jacket help draw your attention to her face as well as the shadows created by her fingers. The image of the man is also very interesting, all of the tones within the image are the same, the beige background and his cream jumper create this very neutral hue for the whole image. His portraits are where you can see the analogue photography being pushed in a commercially digital world. 

Stumbling across his vibrant photographs of Coney Island, NYC, I instantly became fascinated with Willem Verbeeck’s ability at capturing strangers in seemingly natural poses. Understanding more about Verbeeck’s passion to document the “interesting people” of Coney Island for me creates this overwhelming sense of community within this series “America’s Playground”. He has this ability to capture strangers in a comfortable way making the viewer of these image feel calm. I feel like his choice of medium also helps with conveying this, using a Mamiya Rz67 with Portra 400 film, the light and colour within the image become very nostalgic. Verbeeck makes use of analogue photography within contemporary way, working closely with in urban landscapes in his more personal work. However, he also creates a wide variety of portraits, that work more commercially rather than being a body of work itself (See third image).

The series “America’s Playground” explored the notion of community and how a place can bring so many different types of people together, visually his work has a sense of narrative through his inclusion of different styles of images. Verbeeck has this ability to document a place from an outsider perspective yet there is an underlining notion of connection through the narrative of the collection as well as his visual style. Being influenced by photographers like William Eggleston and Joel Meryerowitz, he has drawn influence from their subject and style- Eggleston and Meryeroiwitz play a lot with light within their images this is something seen in Verbeeck’s work. His photographs offer a compelling experimentation with light in the images of Coney Island. Although the work explores smaller themes of community and relaxation, something about the style and his ability to capture the environment with such peace; creates this sense of tranquillity. This feeling becomes transferable, to not only audiences like me, who find themselves drawn to Verbeeck’s photographic style, but to viewers who don’t know anything about the photographer. His composition, along with his photographic style enable his chosen themes to thrive (See last image).

This image in particular stood out to me, I found myself following the twists and turns of the rollercoaster, almost as if I was there riding it; this created a sense of movement within the photograph. Movement can also be seen in the tall grass and the tree towards the left of the image; this subtle element of movement is referenced throughout Verbeek’s other images due to Coney Island being on the beach. I really like how this photograph seems to have been broken up in to three sections, each colour seems to be separate from the next, the blue and the green seem to encompass the orange mental of the rollercoaster. This shows a different perspective from the other few images of the rollercoaster, this is has been take from outside the boundaries of the fairground. This links back to the notion of Verbeeck documenting Coney Island from an outsider perceptive.  


Radical Women: Jessica Dismorr and Her Contemporaries Exhibition

Walking towards the exhibition it was hard to miss the significance of it being held within one of the most remarkable 18th century townhouses in England, this for me only added to the importance that the images inside would show. Entering into the exhibition you are greeted with large open plan rooms which gives a less structured set up. This allows the viewer to flow between artworks and gravitate towards the image that has a personal draw to it; rather than being herded through a particular route, giving a ‘nod’ to the freedom of choice these works signified. The exhibition centred around the work of British artist Jessica Dissmor and her many works that explored “modernist literature and radical politics” as well as her involvement in the rhythm group; founded in 1912 by JD Fergusson, this was a group of artists who were very much influenced by the bright energetic colours of the Fauve painters. 

The exhibition included a wide variety of mediums, paintings, graphic art, archival materials and sculptures including; Betty Rea’s Mother and Child 1934; however, the piece of work that stood out to me most was, Love Honour but Not Obey, 1913. Encased in a glass box this A5 pastel pink pamphlet which was placed next to a small collection of Diane Atkinson’s postcards from the book ‘Rise Up Women!’- a collection of postcards used to document the anti- suffragette propaganda. This image may have been one of the smaller pieces of art, within the radical women’s’ collection but for me it was one of the most significant artworks used within the suffragette movement, as it highlighted the power of words within art. Love Honour but Not Obey shows a portrait of Una Dugdale who during the height of the suffragette movement married Victor Duval, one of the founding members of the Men’s Political Union for Women’s Enfranchisement who set out to support Women within the Women’s Social and Political Union. Printed on a pastel pink pamphlet and wearing the flowering the crown she wore on her wedding day, showing the femininity within the portrait. These elements allow the work to break away from the conventional theme portrayed by the suffragettes being “bitchy and ugly women”; these themes are explored further in Diane Atkinson’s postcards.  Using the flowered crown from her wedding in the image, links to the cliché that getting married was the main goal of women within this time. However, Dugdale herself did not want to conform to the traditional wedding vows used within ceremonies in the early 29th century. She did not want to say the word ‘Obey’ however she was later told if she didn’t say the word there may be some doubt around the legality of her marriage. Surrounding the portrait, the title Love Honour but Not Obey stands out as it is in a large bold font, contrasting the pretty pink and dainty layout of the work. Choosing to double underline the work ‘Not’ shows the women’s refusal to continue blindly following the traditions set within the patriarchal society of their daily lives. Shortly after this work came out, a few dominations within the Christian church looked at removing the word ‘obey’ from the vows; during 1922 an Episcopal Church (apart of the Anglican domination) removed the word from the women’s part of the vows. Although this is one of the smaller pieces of work at the exhibition, it stood out to me through its ability to question the power of words. 

Pallant House Gallery has created an exhibition that seeks to re-examine female radical art, the exhibition brought together history and female artist in a way that hasn’t really been done before. Dismorr’s influence with literature and modernist art methods, allowed for a grand exhibition with influences from other artist; over all creating a truly informative experience about a period of time that we haven’t really seen. 

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